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Board Basics

Any board member knows that boards exist to represent the ownership of the organization, which is, in many cases, the membership. The board’s main job is to focus on the vision of the association and to strategically plan for the future.

It should be a team approach, not an individual one.  To maintain the team approach, board members must support decisions made by the board. During the debate on the motion before the board, a board member can and should express any and all objections to the proposed action that the board is about to take. Once the board has made a decision, the board member is responsible for supporting that decision. Therefore, board members should not, outside of a meeting, talk against action taken by the board during a meeting.

The board’s job is to oversee the Executive Director, who is charged with running the headquarters and the day-to-day operation. The board’s job is not to micro manage the staff and headquarters. The board should only act as a group and does not individually tell the executive director how to do his/her job.

Parliamentary procedure guides board function. It is a tool that helps the board operate efficiently. According to one expert, “one of the important aspects to keep in mind regarding parliamentary procedure is to adapt it to the size of the board.” Learn more in The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Robert’s Rules by Nancy Sylvester.

Tips to Consider When Building Association Websites

Websites are wonderful tools for members – most of the time.  But they can become expensive road blocks.

Any website beyond a simple web page can become expensive. Sure your brother-in-law can create a website using WordPress and a template.  But the minute you add in a “store”, a database, downloadable publications, etc., the costs go up and so do the complications.

As long as board members know going into it that websites are not as easy to create and maintain as some so-called experts make it seem, the organization will survive.  But it can be difficult for boards to resist the allure of the over-promising friend-of-a-friend when making decisions regarding a website. And board members should not get involved in the details of appearance or functionality but remain focused on the “big picture” goals of the site.

Websites should be an integral tool within a strategic plan and budgeted for accordingly.  With websites, planning is everything and patience is a virtue! A website is not something you can “make up as you go.”  It’s a little like remodeling your bathroom.  Create your plan within your budget, avoiding flashy add-ons. Like with your bathroom redo, change orders are costly. Budget carefully, stick to your budget and include a cushion in case of overage.

While in the planning stage, determine the true purpose of your association’s website.  Is it a tool to attract and retain members?  Is it a depository for meeting information?  You may already have an existing website but it is more likely to be answering “What are we doing?” rather than “What are we doing for our members?”  Focus less on the association’s operational details, and keep the board’s eye on its 5-year strategic plan, reinforcing benefits of membership and services offered. A tight focus saves money by resulting in fewer pages.

To Tweet or Not to Tweet: 4 Pros & Cons for Associations


1.  Why not?  It’s fun.  It’s fun to consider how to say what you want to convey with only 140 characters. It’s also fun to follow an association’s brief, therefore quick, messages.

2.  Even conservative groups can benefit from this quick method of communication. It can be used to announce meetings, seminars or a last-minute change of plans. It can be a method of communication for emergency groups.

3.  It’s a way for groups to thank or praise individuals publicly.  A quick tweet allows exposure to smaller details that meetings don’t always have time for.  For example:  “SF (San Francisco) chapter had record 150 people at last night’s mtg (meeting).  WTG (Way to go!) Dave Smith, Chair.”

4.  It grabs the attention of those younger people associations are trying to attract.



1.  It’s inexpensive if members assist in providing content but time consuming (read expensive) and labor intensive for an association headquarters to provide.

2.  It can be distracting, pulling staff away from more mundane tasks.

3.  It can be addictive.

4.  Content cannot be controlled. Thus, it must be monitored carefully.

4 Ways to Engage the Next Generation

It’s harder than ever to involve the younger generation in associations. Younger members’
attitudes pose challenges that require creative and targeted strategies. Volunteer expectations, commitment and behavior are evolving away from the “old” association models.

1. They’re busy working harder than ever.
2. They want to spend more time at home with family and friends.
3. They “live” more in the virtual world and don’t see the point of networking face-to- face.
4. They don’t want to commit to a five-year experience ladder to gain access to a board or
officer position.

So what does an association do?

1. Attract the younger generation to your group and then let them define how they wish to
serve. It is the volunteer generation; they do want to volunteer. They want to have their ideas heard – but they want immediate feedback. They may want to work on just one project or task force at a time.

2. Make meetings fewer and more focused – and make them video conference calls whenever possible. Many members do not want to attend unnecessary meetings that entail fighting traffic. Be flexible in how information is shared: embrace email reports vs. face-to-face meetings. Be accepting of text messaging for quick reports. There is no longer any place or time for technophobia. Tech is here and it’s here to stay.

3. Encourage younger members help with tech and new ways of communicating. Encourage
them to make a one-minute video report or welcome message for members on your website. Or maybe they can help with website content or creation, or social media content.

4. Be honest and direct regarding what commitment is expected of the volunteer. Have a
definite start and end to one project they can commit to rather than assigning a task that never ends.

See Race for Relevance by Harrison Coerver.